The Paternoster Gang - Heritage 2 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Guy Adams, Gemma Arrowsmith, & Dan Starkey
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart, & Dan Starkey

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2019

Running Time: 4 hours

The Paternoster Gang returns for their second boxset, titled Heritage 2. So far I’ve not really latched onto any real theme or links between the boxsets or even any episodes, so why they’ve subtitled it Heritage, and even gone so far as act as if this is a sequel to the first set, I have no idea. They don’t need to be linked, just release a boxset of random adventures, who really cares?

This set I overall found less interesting than the first. The opening story (Dining with Death) was especially drab. It felt so bog standard. A couple of warring alien races who despise each other trying to find some sort of diplomatic solution, and somehow Madame Vastra becomes their mediator. The two races feel vastly different about everything! What one finds mormal the other finds appalling...how will they find common ground. I’ve forgotten most of the details already.

The second story, The Screaming Ceiling, I found to be the best of the set. It has a creepy old house that may be alive and eating people. Not too far from feeling like fairly standard Who fare, but it was well executed at the very least.

The set concluded with a story about the legend of the titular Spring-Heeled Jack. A man or creature from British lore that had batwings, spit blue fire, red glowing eyes, and could leap higher than most men. It’s exactly the sort of legend you expect Who to explore. In fact it has in and Eighth Doctor comic from Doctor Who Magazine. I’m surprised the show proper has yet to dive in to it. That said I have been indifferent to both takes on it so far, so maybe it is better left alone.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with this set. When the first set came around, I worried I’d find it uninteresting, but the characters were so charming it earned my recommendation. This second set has done the opposite. I went in expecting charming characters that would hold my interest, and came away completely indifferent. Also, why they are pretending there is some arc with the boxset’s subtitle is beyond me.






Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 11 October 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Dimension Cannon (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Jonathan Morris, Lisa McMullin, AK Benedict, Matt Fitton

Director: Helen Goldwyn

Starring: Billie Piper, Camille Coduri,Shaun Dingwall, Mark Benton

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: June 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

Billie Piper was a key ingredient in the success of the Doctor Who revival.  Her portrayal as Rose was the audience's way into a world that had been closed up for many years.  Through Rose, the audience was discovering the many layers of this universe...the Doctor, the TARDIS, Daleks, Cybermen, and so many new corners of the universe.  Despite only appearing on the show for 2 series, each with a different Doctor, Rose made a lasting impression. Even after she left Rose's absence was felt until the end of the Tenth Doctor's run.

Despite all that...I'm not the biggest Rose Tyler fan.  Don't get me wrong, she was the companion when I discovered my love for the show, and I was really sad to see her go.  She was so integral to my love of the show, that at the time I didn't know how the show could go on without her.  Obviously it did, and as I then went back and discovered more companions, my love, slowly faded for Rose.  These days, I find her adventures with the Ninth Doctor to be top-notch, but I don't really dig the rapport she developed with the Tenth Doctor. Her return in Series 4 marked the moment I began to sour on the character.  They first re-introduced her as a more mature version of the character. The moment she finally reunites with the Tenth Doctor, however, she reverts back to a whiny teenager with a super crush.  And then rewatching the Second series only reinforced how clingy she was. 

At any rate, Big Finish's latest spin-off series focuses in on Rose and her adventures leading up to her return in Series 4.  Using a device called the "Dimension Cannon" she is jumping to various different realities, trying to find her original home and find the Doctor before the universe ends. It's a decent premise, but some details were majorly flawed which hurt my enjoyment of the set. 

In the opening episode (The Endless Night), Rose arrives in a version of Earth and meets a new version of Clive (a character only seen in her debut appearance, who first tells her about the Doctor), and versions of her parents who only dated a year, never married and never had Rose.  But when their sun goes out, Rose is left with the decision of having to save herself but leave them all behind to die. At least in this episode, she has this moral dilemma and then is taken hostage when this version of Pete discovers her way out.  Unfortunately, the reason for getting caught up in events falls apart in subsequent episodes.

For some reason that I genuinely couldn't wrap my head around, when Rose lands in a new reality, her first order of business is to find her parents and figure out how they are different.  For some reason knowing how they are different will tell her how this version of universe diverged.  This is pretty narcissistic. I suppose she is looking for clues to the Doctor in each reality, but she seems to just always focus in on her parents.  In the second episode (The Flood) she lands in a version of Earth that has been raining for 30 years and instead of Pete and Jackie having Rose, they had a boy named Rob.  Why Rose gets so hyper-focused on her parents when her mission is to find the Doctor doesn't really gel for me. Clive has joined her this time and he seems to be actually trying to look for clues to the Doctor, but he falls in love with someone instead.  Eventually, they leave with no headway truly made.

On her third outing, Ghost Machines, Rose is joined by Pete and they immediately recognize this as not Rose's original Earth and likely not to have a Doctor.  They then don't immediately leave. Rose claims that if they can figure out how the reality changed they can use it as a "signpost" to her reality.  How?  That part is skimmed over as if it doesn't matter...but it is the only reason they are apparently hanging around universes in which the Doctor doesn't exist.  Oh but also they are on a major time crunch...they need the Doctor now...but why not look around a place he clearly is not?  This simple flaw really disrupted my enjoyment of the set.  It could have been as simple as a line about how they can only use the Cannon once a day, so they are trapped in each reality for at least a day.  But they can come and go whenever they like as far as they are concerned.  There is no reason to stay around a version of Earth which seems to be overflowing with graves.

The set closes out with Jackie joining Rose on an adventure...for some reason.  They end up in a world where another planet is going to crash into Earth, and everyone in Rose and Jackie's old stomping grounds is throwing The Last Party on Earth.  It's fine, but despite initially deciding to leave immediately because it is the wrong place, they stick around to get to know everyone they know's alternate versions anyhow.  I'm not sure I see the point in sticking around if they never help, they just feel worse about having to jump universes again. 

I was indifferent to this set. Huge fans of Rose may enjoy hearing some of the old gang (though Mickey is notably absent), but really I had trouble getting into the premise.  Rose gets caught up in the events of these different realities like the Doctor would, but she never really helps things or solves any problems.  She just gets emotionally attached to different versions of her family before leaving them to die on their world and start it all over again.  It felt repetitive, and maybe just one Big Finish Spin-off too far.






Lady Christina: Series One (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 5 September 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Lady Christina (Credit: Big Finish)
Director: Helen Goldwyn
 

Big Finish

First Released: August 2018
Running Time: 5 hours

I've always been indifferent about the character of Lady Christina De Souza, the one-off guest star from Planet of the Dead (the 2009 Easter Special) starring David Tennant.  I was never fond of that story, which to me always came off as a run of the mill average episode being touted as a big special in a year with a lot less Who.  I am often more forgiving of average Who stories when they are in the middle of a full year...but if you only get a few in a year, they all have to up their game.  The character of Lady Christina was definitely tied to this.  Michelle Ryan is charming, but the character always felt like someone overwritten to be the coolest person in town. Flawless and fun and witty and can do all sorts of cool things.  She is the thief with a heart of gold...but it always felt very forced. I failed to connect with the character.  But that didn't matter in the long run. It was just one episode.

But with Big Finish no having the rights to almost all things New Series, every one off character and their mother can get their own series! So Lady Christina gets her very on Audio Spin-off series.  It isn't a bad series, in fact, it has plenty of moments of fun, but it didn't really move the needle on this character for me.  The character only got one shot on TV, so if you are going to build a series around her, you need to flesh out her character.  Beyond the all too fleeting moments with her father in one episode, this set definitely failed to do that. 

So she ends up being written as a bargain bin version of River Song, a sassy witty adventurer with a bad girl side. That's the biggest flaw for me.  I didn't hear anything in this character that didn't end up sounding like it could've been just as well coming from River. The difference being River had a ton of on screen adventures that fleshed out her character, and the boxsets I've so far heard from her also added onto her character.  This is just some light adventures featuring a character that lacks much depth.  Again, Michelle Ryan is charming and she is playing the part with some gusto...but the lack of any real character development hurts this set immensely for me. 

The opening story is actually fun and showed promise.  It weaved a fun tale of adventure, robbery, and a hint of alien tech, and made me think that maybe this series could work, despite my utter indifference to the lead character.  A bit of light Doctor Who alien stuff mixed in with some crimes?  Sure!  But then the second story felt like it was a riff on the plot of Partners in Crime...right down to the involvement of Sylvia Noble (which ends up being a practically random guest star).  Other than the involvement of Christina's father, which is too underwritten, the story left me somewhat cold.  I would've enjoyed it as a Tenth Doctor tale, but I was feeling that this series had the potential to do something new...a thief as the lead.  It should be a show about a thief stealing alien artifacts...and that should be the focus of the stories!

Though the third episode returns to that premise, I have to say it was sadly a bit of a mess. There were good ideas floating around, but it was too unfocused. The finale of the set also felt unfocused, though not nearly as muddled as the third episode.  The set just limps to a conclusion, and it didn't leave me frothing at the mouth for more adventures with Lady Christina.

Ultimately, the set didn't grab me. It is mostly serviceable light fun, but nothing I will remember a week from now.  I went into this with a total neutral feelings on the character and the whole idea of her getting her own series.  Sadly, the set has me walking away feeling exactly the same.  I am no offended by it's existence, now do I care if it continues or dies right here.  There were nuggets of fun, and certainly, some will find it a good time. Give me River Song any day. 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Oct 2018
Lady Christina